My Dark Vanessa

“The longer you get away with something, the more reckless you become, until it’s almost as if you want to get caught.”

By Kate Elizabeth Russell | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 out of 5 stars)
Trigger warning: Sexual Abuse, Rape, Grooming, Pedophilia, Gaslighting, Suicide

January of 2021, my first book to read for the year was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I know that the book was a controversial classic and that I think every adult should read it at least once. It followed Humbert Humber, a middle-aged man, who was in love with his stepdaughter, Dolores Haze, 12, or who he fondly calls, Lo.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Lolita inspired Russell to create the book My Dark Vanessa. Indeed, the context of the latter revolved around Nabokov’s creation. Though I was able to read Lolita, My Dark Vanessa was still a hard book to finish. It shakes one’s mind like how it should, anyway.

The book followed the story of Vanessa Wye who was once a fifteen-year-old high school student and was groomed by her English teacher, Jacob Strane. The two had a long relationship before Strane committed suicide amid student sexual assault issues thrown at him.

As you go on in the book, you will understand how Strane gaslighted and groomed Vanessa into a person who will just accept sexual abuse and rape. It was hurtful as a reader for Vanessa to blame herself and go after Strane’s defense in terms of her abuse. It was maddening. Anyone at 15 should just be 15 and not in, any manner, be groomed and forced to be adults and be relied on for consent. Strane, on the other hand, may have some psychological problems about his attraction to prepubescent girls. While he may say he loved Vanessa, a major part of their relationship was selfish/self-serving–this was also seen when Vanessa grew up to be an adult of her own right. Strane’s interest deteriorated, leaving him to assault further different students he teach. Again, it was maddening. And I do empathize with Vanessa–all of her trauma, all of the things he made her believe, her life moving forward, her self-blame, and even more.

To be groomed is to be loved and handled like a precious, delicate thing.

Or so how Vanessa was led to believe.

These things can happen, to us and to anybody we know. I hope our society may grow to be more understanding and shy away from victim-blaming. Victims, even suspects, have a lot going on in their heads and shall need professional help to intervene.

People will risk everything for a little bit of something beautiful.

The longer you get away with something, the more reckless you become, until it’s almost as if you want to get caught.

The book made me feel uneasy as it was supposed to be. It was written in a way that may help us understand issues like this. I hope you’ll make time to read this and understand. There are many Vanessa Wye and Lolita out there. Let’s take the time to help.

Author: shainnehostalero

Shainne Hostalero, MDC is a social entrepreneur (owner and founder of Happy Shift PH), a communication scholar, and a writer.

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